I had an interesting thought the other day bout how I might be programming my children for Obesity.
I was actually mapping out a plan of things I should change in my own life to drop about 20 lbs and was specifically looking at my habit of eating more than I need.
Over the years I’ve realized that while I do pretty well at not overeating all day long, I have a few times where I tend to over eat.
I tend to reach for bad food when I’m:
- In a social setting
So as I was thinking about this I realized something…
Guess when most parents feed their children a bottle?
They feed their child when they are bored, tired, stressed or eating together as a family around the table.
Is this just a coincidence the situations that we feed our young children in tend to be the same times we also struggle with overeating as adults?
How We Emotionally Addict Our Children To Food
You no doubt have heard of the famous “hunger trigger” experiment with Dr. Pavlov right?
The experiment where he would give a signal (ring a bell) and then let the dog have some food. In this famous experiment Dr. Pavlov was able to see if he could get a dog to feel hungry when he would see a stimulus besides food… in this case a bell.
With lots of repetition, Dr. Pavlov was successfully able to get the dog to start drooling whenever he rang a bell, because he had paired the bell so frequently with allowing the dog to eat.
I would argue, that this is exactly what we are doing with our children, and that it could possibly play a larger contributing factor to childhood obesity and adult obesity than any other factors.
So how do you break these hunger triggering habits as a parent?
While nobody knows for sure, one interesting piece of research (Preventing Obesity During Infancy: A Pilot Study) was recently done that coached parents to not reach for food as the first tool for soothing an upset child, and to instead use other soothing measures. Then after one year of using these non food related soothing strategies (specifically when the infant was NOT actually hungry) resulted in babies who were much lower on the average body to height weight ratio then average children.
This is REALLY significant because researchers are starting to realize that children who are obese as infants have a high correlation to childhood obesity at 6 years of age, suggesting that preventing of Childhood Obesity starts at the infant level.
I’d like to point out that this is long before, healthy eating habits are ever a factor, and as evidence that emotional addictions to food are the larger cause of childhood obesity.
So Now What?
Well if you’re like me, reading that research helped me come to grips with the fact that I was reaching for food to soothe my kids emotional fussiness more than I should have been.
So I’ve decided to create a new habit for myself, and suggest you do the same.
Starting today, when your child get’s fussy, immediately put feeding your child as the last technique you’ll try to use to calm them down.
One thing I’ve noticed as I started applying this technique in my own kids lives is that they more often than not they just needed some help trying to figure out what activity to do next… they wanted more play.
And I would much rather help them recreate an emotional program that helps them seek out fun activities when they get bored, tired or stressed, instead of food. Because that’s a habit that will stick with them when they are all grown up and making choices on their own out in the world some day.
I won’t always be there to feed them, but I can help create constructive emotional feelings about how to handle stresses that life puts on us, and it’s those skills of how to actually work through stresses that our children need help with, not just “medicating” the problem with food.
That’s a recipe for disaster.
If you’re interested in other fascinating emotional and mental programming habits that drastically affect the type of child your son or daughter will grow up to become, make sure you check out this video: